The brick houses of Sheffield

When was the first brick house built in Sheffield?

In the book, “Reminiscences of Sheffield,” it states that the first brick house was built at the end of Pepper Alley about the year 1696.

Pepper Alley was superseded by the grander title of Norfolk Row, created nearby in 1780.

This long-lost house was leased at an annual rent of 24 peppercorns, quite high for the time because a rent of “one peppercorn if demanded” was a common nominal rent. But why should rents in Pepper Alley have been nominal? After all, one would have thought that land was rather valuable in this neighbourhood.

The statement that the house in Pepper Alley (was it so called after the peppercorn rents?) was the first brick house in Sheffield rests upon the authority of the Rev. Edward Goodwin, a clergyman of antiquarian tastes, who lived in the town at the end of the eighteenth century.

However, we can perhaps refute his claim, and will probably never know.

About the fourteenth century the houses in Sheffield were of wood, or partly of wood and stone, and in some of these houses brick must have been used in combination with wood.

Brick was little used in northern towns, where stone was plentiful, but it is likely that some old builder or architect used brick instead of stone, merely by way of change.

Sheffield was a stone-built town for the most part, but when the Duke of Norfolk began to lay out new streets between Pond Lane and Norfolk Street, and in the neighbourhood of Scotland Street and West Bar, a great deal of brick was used.

When street improvements were made, a few old brick houses were pulled down, and, plain as their exteriors probably were, some of them contained beautifully carved chimney-pieces and panelled walls, showing that these houses had once been occupied by people of wealth and consequence.

It’s very improbable to say the least, that no brick house was built in Sheffield before 1696. After all, the great tower at Sheffield Manor was of brick in Cardinal Wolsey’s time, and we know how old it was even then.